Etiology of Ghana Underdevelopment -Rejoinder

Sat, 13 Aug 2005 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, in Ottawa, Canada, responds to Y. Fredua-Kwateng, in Toronto, Canada, "Etiology of Ghana Underdevelopment,"arguing that the on-going culture-development debate is gradually flowing into the culture-driven African Renaissance process

Y. Fredua-Kwarteng, of University of Toronto, piece (ghanaweb.com, 4 August 2005) in response to my piece on the ghanaweb.com (July 16, 2005) about the growing debate of the Ghanaian/African culture and development, comes as Ghana/Africa's development process simultaneously heats up and opens up not only continentally but also globally, as we saw in Bob Geldolf Live 8 global concerts to eliminate Africa's poverty and the surprisingly growing balanced press reports about Africa's development process in the international media.

While Fredua-Kwateng's piece seeks to explain the etiology (that's the cause or the origin) of Ghana's underdevelopment and attempts to pin Ghana/Africa's development process on holistic grounds, his bashing of Dr. George Ayittey and myself as African development process separatist in terms of the externalist and the internalist divisions reveal a shaky grasp about the on-going thinking of Ghana/Africa development process in current thinking compared with the late Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah and his cohorts era. His rhetorical question "Are you an internalist or externalist?" says all. Practically, there is no internalist or externalist in the Ghana/African development process debate, there is the confused African elite not trying to grasp all the factors that have contributed to Africa's so-called "agonies," including the long-running exclusion of deeper implications of the African culture in both local and international development planning or thinking in Africa's development process.

The Internalists came about because for uncritically long time African elites, for their own benefits against the peoples upkeep, which demonstrated their weaknesses, had blamed the continent's problems on external factors alone without looking at the internal factors that have also contributed to the continent's problems. "Imperialism, Down with Imperialism," said the largely the Externalists' slogans of the 1960s against today's Internalists rantings such as the Dr. George Ayittey-minted "African Solutions for African Problems," which opened up the African development process debate, both locally and internationally, by incorporating the Interenalists' stance. The Internalists are not saying Ghanaians/Africans should separate the internal factors such as predatory elites that have slowed down Africa's progress from the external forces such as the impact of colonialism; what they are saying is that in discussing Africa's problems we have to take note of the internal factors too so as to have fuller understanding of the continent's problems, especially in making policies. This is what South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki is saying in his "African Renaissance" project, and other thinkers such as Dr. George Ayittey, of American University in Washington D.C., and myself are advocatng.

Still, while Fredua-Kwateng's intergrationist position further underscores the Ghana/African development process in not only today's African culture-development climate but also global too, it has to be cast in the "African Renaissance" project so as to bring deeper understanding of the continent's problems and a common forum to discuss the Ghanaian/African development process. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) attempts at this but lack's the cultural component. Critically, any African development process that is not driven by African cultural values first and any other second will not work and will further worsen matters in the long run. The African Renaissance process, a centrist thinking, not only blames Ghana/Africa underdevelopment on both the external and the internal factors but also recognizes the skillful opening of the African culture for development so as to bring respectability to the African culture, for long demeaned by colonialism and its paradigms, to the African development process. And by opening up the African culture for development, the good parts, enhanced by the refinement of the inhibiting or the "injurious" parts (as Ghana's Vice President Aliu Mahama would say), will be mixed with Africa's colonial legacies and the enabling parts of the global culture, as other ex-colonies such as Japan, Malaysia and South Korea have done. Progressively, African states such as Botswana and Uganda are gradually moving in this African values-driven developmental direction and this has received praises globally.

Though Fredua-Kwateng draws reasonable lessons from Ghana/Africa development history, including the Latin American-originated dependency theory, and thinkers like Nigeria's Chinweizu, a respected Africanist of the integrationist school, to demonstrate his integrationist stance, what has to be noted is that currently all Ghanaian/African development processes are gradually and naturally flowing into the African Renaissance process, unaware to a lot of Ghanaians/Africans, as the on-going African culture-development debate and attempts to refine certain cultural inhibitions reveal. In northern Ghana, for instance, where there is disturbingly high incidence of witchcraft and certain culturally injurious believes, there are non-government organizations (NGOs) dedicated to educating people about the implications of witchcraft and other inhibiting values in their development process. The historic campaigns by the progressive Ghanaian mass media and some NGOs against "trokosi," a cultural practice in the Volta Region of Ghana where female teenagers are enslaved onto shrines for sins committed by their parents, saw the banning of "trokosi" by the then PNDC regime. In trying to refine either how witchcraft implicates in development or how "trokosi" violated the human rights of the teenage girls involved, those involved in the refinements of these cultural inhibitions, somehow unaware to them, were simultaneously appropriating both the Internalists and the Externalists arguments, the colonial legacies and the enabling aspects of the global culture in their development work.

Still, while the South Africans are talking about rooting African management/human resources systems in the African cultural ethos called "ubuntu," "I am because we are," Dr. George Ayittey talks of tapping the hugely untapped African traditional rulers as human resources materials in the Ghanaian/African development process. As stated above, the practical view is that the African Renaissance process, which is mother of all African development process thinking today and which has been accepted by international development experts, intergratively ties the externalists and the internalists arguments in the Ghana/Africa development processes, and more supremely important, further opens up the African culture, and all its accompanying innate institutions, for long suppressed and disrespected in the eyes of the world because of the ignorance of colonialism, with the continent's colonial legacies and the enabling aspects of the global culture, in the development process.

The idea is to refine the confused Ghanaian/African elites values, which are largely the counterfeit of the European values, with Ghanaian/African innate traditional values, in the development processes, so as to fully take into consideration all the mistakes of yesteryears into consideration in making policies in the Ghanaian/African development processes in an atmosphere of respect. As the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and many other international development agencies are coming to grips, part of Africa's so-called under-development has come about simply because colonialism and other Western development agencies imposed their development values or paradigms on Africa without considering the continent's local values. Thus, as Ghana's Dr. Y.K. Amoako, former chief executive of the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia-based UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), notes, making the African region with the most foreign "dominated" development paradigms in her development process globally.

African elites who came after the colonialists, perhaps confused or perhaps too emotional and less reasonable because as Canada's York University Osgood Law School teacher Nigeria's Dr. Obiora Okafor says the early post-independence leaders were overwhelmed by the excitement of independence from the colonialists or perhaps they did not reflected deeply about their development process in relation to their environment, continued with the colonialists' values without mixing their local African values with the colonial legacies as other ex-colonies such as Brazil, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea have done. By mixing values it would have brought the development process home and open and bring the long-suppressed African traditional institutions into the open and closer to the African people. Dr. George Ayittey would say "African elites, denigrated our own indigenous institutions and even destroyed them." But gradually and naturally, events are turning in the proper development thinking direction from Ghanaian/African elites as they are increasingly faced with hard realities of multiple of problems..

Confronted with such realities, the insertion of Article 39 into the Ghanaian Constitution, which "enjoins the State to take the necessary steps to encourage the integration of appropriate cultural values into the fabric of national life through formal and informal education as well as the conscious introduction of cultural dimensions to relevant aspects of national planning," as stated by Ghana's Vice President, Aliu Mahama, is a superb demonstration of today's Ghanaian/African elites thinking in terms of the raw implicxations of national development and the culture. This is also aimed at affirming the universality of reasonable aspects of certain aspects of the Ghanaian/African culture in the development process. And more striking and encouraging is Mahama's reasoning that "the State was also required to ensure that appropriate customary and cultural values are adapted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of society, while traditional practices, which are injurious to the society are abolished." This signals the dawn of not only cultural enlightenment but also hard reasoning over high emotional outburst of yesteryears, and any cosmetic, flashy symbolic projection of cultural symbols. It also signals the dawn of serious holistic thinking in policy making, in order to factor in not only the internal and external factors but also both the good and "injurious" parts of the culture in national development .

By grounding Ghanaian/African policy development in the peoples traditional values, not only will the good aspects come into the forefront and make the Ghanaian/African feels that the policies driving the development process come from within the Ghanaian/African values first and any other second but also the "injurious" or inhibiting aspects of the culture will be either refined or destroyed to smooth the development process, an act that will make the development process much more sustainable. For the average Ghanaian who interprets events in terms of witchcraft and other injurious spiritual/cultural believes is inhibited from thinking clearly in the development process, thus making the individual swim perpetually in darkness, ignorance and discomfort. For the development process is not only physical, it is also mental, it is also progress in reasoning in relation to one's attempts to live in comfort, it is carrying less unnecessary cultural burden that hinder one's progress.

In this sense, as the Internalists, Externalists, Intergrationists and the African Renaissance process debates rages on, aside from some NGOs involved in public education to free people from the clutches of certain cultural inhibitions, the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), a largely public education venture, could be used appropriately in the campaigns to refine certain inhibitions within the Ghanaian culture as part of the development process. Still, Ghanaian bureacrats, politicians and other "Big Men" involved in policy development should research and appropriate the enabling aspects of the culture in policy making. Consulting the National House of Chiefs in certain policy making process will be superb idea and practice. Thumps up to Fredua-Kwateng, Dr. George Ayittey, the Internalists, the Externalists, the Intergrationists and the African Renaissance process advocates in bringing the Ghanaian/African development process debate, which was formally Latin American-driven, especially its dependency theory, into the African arena.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi